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5 Easily Forgotten Fundamentals for Great Sound in Every Service

Jun 17 2021

Hi, my name is Reid Wall. I’ve been part of the Hillsong team since 2005. These days I am responsible for live audio/video/lighting in our QLD & NT campuses.

Hillsong Church meets in many different countries all over the world, with individual congregations ranging from hundreds to thousands of people. No matter the size of auditorium, we have found that a few (sometimes forgotten) fundamental first steps are critical in successfully delivering weekend services, from the audio team’s perspective!

Here are the first 5 things we teach our FOH sound engineers to achieve at the very start of a soundcheck / rehearsal (for an installed venue, this should take 15 minutes). Verifying these elements before soundcheck and rehearsals means you can go into a service confident these critical elements are functioning. Remember; line check, sound check, and rehearsals are 3 unique tasks with different purposes.  Do these in order, and ensure everyone involved knows which one you are doing.

1. Say Hello!

When you arrive to mix a service – smile and say hello to the rest of the team! Ask them about their weeks, their jobs, their family. Let’s remember we are part of a church community that exists beyond the task in front of us!

2. Listen to the PA system

Find a track you know well, hit play and go for a walk! It doesn’t need to be particularly loud. Listen to each component of the PA system and confirm everything is functioning properly. We really don’t want to find out halfway through a service that “there is no sound in the upper left-hand corner of the balcony”. If there is a problem – you want to know about it with plenty of time to develop a solution for the service. Also, isolating and confirming the PA system is functioning properly allows you to remove it as a variable when you are listening to various sources during soundcheck and rehearsal. IE – if the drum kit isn’t sounding quite right to you that day (but you tested the PA system first thing), you can cross the PA system off your list of potential problems, and focus your attention on other variables like drum tuning, mic placement, and console processing.

3. Verify the external / broadcast outputs

Some people’s entire experience of our church happens outside the main auditorium. Take a few minutes and verify individual signal paths to the online broadcast, parents rooms, overflow and other external rooms. Isolating and verifying the correct signal arriving to these rooms will save you much stress later, and ensure the people listening have the best possible experience!

4. Soundcheck the speech microphones 

Our preaching team carries a huge responsibility to teach God’s Word to our congregation. Let’s make sure that when we hand them a microphone, we are confident it will sound clear and strong. Testing these sources nice and early, in a quiet auditorium without other pressures, allows you to give them the attention they deserve. It means you can identify and resolve an RF problem, or perhaps some feedback challenges. Nothing is worse than loading the preacher on stage with a microphone that is dropping out from RF interference or hearing feedback floating around the room.

5. Line Check Audio from Video

Often our service programming relies on video links between campuses and other moments of video replay. Sometimes we’ll have a video with music, speech, and click/cue that our band needs to play in sync with. De-embedding audio from a video signal is often one of the more complicated elements of the system.  Spend a few moments confirming signal path from the video hardware all the way to the sound desk, and make sure it’s all in sync with what you’re seeing on screens.  Even if you have dedicated time to rehearse these elements later, spend some time first thing in the morning to ensure the equipment is functioning so you are ready to rehearse. Again, confirming the system components early means when you get to rehearsal you can quickly isolate the problem and identify if there is an issue with the content, or a problem with the hardware.  For example, if you run the same video sync test every week, and then you get to a problem with the actual video or web stream, you can be confident the problem isn’t system based, but localised to that specific peace of content.

While these tasks may seem simple, giving them habitual attention will help your team achieve consistent results each service!

Thanks for reading,

Reid Wall
Hillsong Queensland Creative Technology